Hopewell Township will eye firm’s campus as possible redevelopment area

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Township Committee members in Hopewell Township have authorized the members of the Planning Board to determine whether the Bristol-Myers Squibb campus should be deemed a redevelopment area.

The board will investigate if the campus constitutes an area in need of redevelopment. Municipal officials said they believe that course of action would better serve the township rather than if the site is redeveloped in a piecemeal manner.

Board members will review a report prepared by Banisch Associates and make recommendations to the Township Committee. The property covers 430 acres, 200 of which are dedicated to preserved farmland and open space on Pennington-Rocky Hill Road.

Mayor Kristin McLaughlin, Deputy Mayor Michael Ruger, Committeeman Kevin Kuchinski, Committeewoman Courtney Peters-Manning and Committeewoman Julie Blake voted “yes” on a motion to take the action on March 2.

According to municipal officials, Bristol-Myers Squibb is still looking to lease portions of its campus as the company seeks a single buyer for the property and is still on schedule to leave the campus this summer.

“This is a continuation of our work to continue to remarket the campus in Hopewell. In December 2016, Bristol-Myers Squibb announced it would be closing its campus by July 2020,” Kuchinski said.

“Over the course of the winter of 2019-20, (the company) has been working to identify a buyer for the Hopewell campus, who can successfully remarket and redevelop the remaining research and office space,” he said.

One the first tenants to ink a leasing deal to the property is PTC Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company. Officials signed a long-term lease in August 2019 for about 185,000 square feet of space, which included an existing biological production facility and supporting research and operations buildings on the campus.

In June 2019, municipal officials amended the land use ordinance to allow the property to be subdivided with multiple owners.

“It remains critical that we remarket the site. To put it in perspective, in 2019, Bristol-Myers Squibb accounted for $6.8 million in tax revenue for Hopewell,” Kuchinski said. “Looking forward, we are looking at one of the tools in New Jersey, under state law, to deal with a campus like this and successfully readapt it, the use of the redevelopment law. This gives us the authority to put stricter controls on a use standpoint and enables us to ensure the tax base standpoints are protected.”

According to the township, Bristol-Myers Squibb currently represents about 6% of Hopewell Township’s tax base, which accounts for $6 million annually in tax revenue.

“This site is also a major part of the school taxes, which impacts everyone in town. It is really important that we have a holistic approach here to make sure the schools are represented, because it would adversely affect everyone,” Blake added.

“The schools are going to have the budget they are going to set and we have to pay it no matter what. It is very important that we look at every way of financing that and review this,” she said.